Project Maelstrom might sound intimidating, but it’s really just BitTorrent’s latest attempt to bring in more profits—and you can’t blame a torrent site for trying. Notorious for bringing in profits from less than ethical means (a reputation shared by all torrent sites), BitTorrent is trying to clean up its act and web hosting is a great way to do it. Currently, the torrent leader has announced a new web browser that promises stability, security and openness, which are all musts for any web host. It’s known as Project Maelstrom at the moment, but that’s very much a working title. Using existing skills, the browser operates much like a torrent site, but directs web surfers to useful web servers. From the early stages, it looks like a pretty straightforward and potentially profitable move.
However, BitTorrent lovers are encouraged not to start celebrating too soon. Right now, the project can only work on peer-to-peer networking, which is a common setup but not the most popular. The most defining of Maelstrom’s features requires data to not be stored in one server. Instead, a number of computers (peer-to-peer, equal computers) need to host the data. From the surfing end, this means that when you visit a site you’re automatically also hosting part of that site (or your computer is). It’s kind of like when you visit a torrent site and allow your computer to auto-share your files with others. Sharing is caring in the world of torrents, and in some cases in the world of web hosting.
For torrent users, the problem isn’t having to “share” your computer, since that’s been a go-to strategy for years. The bigger issue is the complete lack of compatibility with HTTP. This is, of course, the most common protocol that the world wide web uses. However, there are many benefits of peer-to-peer “webbing” that have been established over the years. In fact, those benefits might just be ample enough to encourage a slew of people to adopt the approach. If you’re a web host service provider or a website owner, peer-to-peer can save you money and energy. After all, you’re sharing the burden with other computers, and there’s power in numbers.
Solely on the consumer end, you’d also get faster load times and overall more reliable websites, which is a great thing. Free speech and security would also get a boost, since it’s relatively “easy” to take down or take over one computer. However, it’s nearly impossible to take down all computers involved in a peer-to-peer environment. There’s no central server in peer-to-peer networking, so the websites using peer-to-peer will stay up with just one “seeder” (computer). Obviously the speed will be impacted, but one seeder is all you need to technically stay up and running. Plus, BitTorrent knows what it’s doing. It’s likely there will be thousands (and at least hundreds) of seeders.
Right now, Project Maelstrom is in beta mode just for Windows. If you’d like to test it out, you can do so from the BitTorrent official website. Chromium, Google’s open source browser, is the current browser du jour for Maelstrom. In other words, it’s very user friendly and you won’t notice an immediate surfing difference. The down side is that, due to it being in the beta stage, there are just a few websites where you can test it out. Of course, since Maelstrom is completely legit as a torrent client, you can lawfully stream and download files.
Even better, Maelstrom is not the first of its kind, which means that many kinks have already been worked out. You can thank ZeroNet for that, a slightly earlier browser in beta that works on open source and may have been the inspiration for Maelstrom.